Parkinson’s Law – 24 Hour Product Challenge Recap

Sometimes all you need to do to achieve your goals is to give them a time limit. I know this sounds strange, but it seems to be a part of human nature. There exists a phenomenon called “Parkinson’s Law” which states:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

On the 13th of this month (a little over a week ago) I decided to partake in the 24 Hour Product challenge. Both Nathan Barry and Amy Hoy launched products in 24 hours, so why couldn’t I?

I’ve had an idea for a small e-book in my head for a few months now about building products quickly, and I figured this was the perfect project for the 24 hour challenge.

“Building Software Products in a Weekend” was born. (You can get it here for free.)

cover 3d - 02

When I sit down and write, it is usually a long and drawn out process. I want to make sure that every sentence is exactly perfect. It has to sound the way I want it to sound, it has to lead into the next sentence, the next paragraph, just like poetry.

By giving myself a 24 hour time limit, I was freed of this limitation. I knew that the only thing that mattered was writing an e-book that made sense. It didn’t have to be perfect. In ONE WEEK I’ve succeeded in:

  • Writing and launching a 53-page eBook.
  • Getting it professionally formatted as a beautiful PDF.
  • Almost QUADRUPLING my email following, from 197 subscribers to 747 at the time of writing (welcome new family members! :) I’m glad to have you here).
  • Writing a guest-email for Derick Bailey to kick off the launch.
  • Getting the book on Product Hunt.

I wanted to give you guys a short day-by-day breakdown on how I accomplished this, so here goes.

Saturday (Dec 13th, Day 1)

So on Saturday I sat down in my basement office and begin to organize my thoughts. I planned out a rough outline, transcribed a podcast episode to use as a starting point, and began writing.

Every 6-10 pages I’d go upstairs, refill my coffee, and keep on chugging along. I was going to get this thing done in 24-hours if my life depended on it.

By 7:30PM I thought I was going to die, so I went to be. I think that was the most tired I’ve been in a long time. Who would’ve thought that writing was so tiresome?

Sunday (Day 2)

I woke up early and waited by my new coffee machine as the water boiled. I headed downstairs and got back to work. I still had two more sections to write…in 4 hours. And believe it or not, I finished up with 15 minutes to spare.

At this point, I was still set on selling the book. However, I hopped on Skype with John Sonmez (the SimpleProgrammer guy) and he persuaded me that offering it for free to build my following would be a much better idea. I’m so glad I took his advice. Thanks John!

Monday (Day 3)

John also recommended that I get the book professionally turned into a PDF with a layout, graphics, etc. So on Monday I reached out to a designer on oDesk and worked with him throughout the day to make the PDF and “cover.”

And man was this guy AWESOME. He turned my boring white Word document into an absolute masterpiece (in my honest opinion), and he did it in THREE HOURS at a reasonable hourly rate.

This just goes to show you that you shouldn’t be wasting time working on things you’re not good at. I would never have been able to make the book look as good as he did, so that’s money well spent.

That night I read through the book multiple times, edited it a bit, and fixed a good amount of typos.

Tuesday (Day 4)

I found out that my email to Derick’s list was going out TOMORROW…I thought I had until Thursday. Whoops.

And you have to realize that I have a full-time day job, so I couldn’t just go home and work on the launch. So in one night I:

  • Tidied up the email for Derick
  • Drew an awesome picture for the email (see below).
  • Picked out a book landing page for $14 and customized it (check it out).
  • Rigged up MailChimp to the landing page so it would automatically email the book to anyone who signed up.

derickpic

Wednesday (Day 5, The launch!)

On Wednesday morning, my guest post for Derick went out, and I sent an email out to my own newsletter announcing the launch of the book. While at work, I refreshed my stats every so-often and watched my newsletter family grow and grow.

Towards midday someone I had helped on Twitter the previous week posted my book on Product Hunt (karma!). It never made it to the top of Product Hunt or anything, but it did drive some traffic to my site.

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 10.50.59 AM

It was awesome and scary all at the same time. By the end of the day I had tripled my following. What if my new followers didn’t like my content? Would they jump ship? Or would they like my stuff? Only time will tell.

Today

By now, it’s been about 9 days, and it looks like everything has settled down a bit. I’m still getting slightly increased traffic to my blog, and my email newsletter is still growing, but it’s definitely slowed. Here’s the stats from my newsletter:

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 10.53.14 AM

Going from nothing to 747 email followers in only SIX MONTHS was a bit of an early Christmas present for me. My file statistics show that the book has been downloaded 688 times, and I’d like to thank everyone for checking it out!

Parkinson’s Law

The moral of this story IS Parkinson’s Law.

If I didn’t give myself the 24-hour time limit for Draft #1 of the book, chances are I still wouldn’t have even began writing it. I would have been procrastinating and contemplating how difficult it would be to actually write a book.

Instead I said: screw it, let’s get a first draft of this thing done IN ONE DAY. And low and behold, I did. Nine days later I’ve almost quadrupled my following. So next time you’re thinking about whether or not you want to start a project, write a book, or program something, perhaps you should try the #24HourProduct challenge.

And it doesn’t have to be 24 hours, maybe you set aside an entire weekend. Your goal should be to set a deadline. By setting that deadline and holding yourself to it, you’ll make sure that the task doesn’t expand infinitely via procrastination.

So welcome to the family everyone, I hope you enjoy my stuff! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and let me know if you need anything.

Free "Building Software Products in a Weekend" eBook

You'll learn the development strategies I used to program my SaaS product in just 36 hours.

Any programmer can take information in this practical 53-page eBook and use it to build a software product. You'll be able to take your idea and boil it down to a Minimum Viable Product, learn how to waste less time writing unnecessary code, and use my 3-step development process for building quickly.

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  • makeitrein

    Quality post, Matt. I completely agree with the idea of setting strict deadlines to help keep yourself focused and engaged. The problem I’m dealing with at work is that some of the projects that I’m working on are things that you cannot physically complete in 24/48/72/etc. hours… e.g. a ticketing platform complete with a client side purchasing app, promoter side redemption app, plus a admin interface to tie it all together.

    Some of the strategies you recommend in your book (reducing the feature set, finding pre-existing solutions) to speed up development time don’t work as well when clients/bosses are involved. With my own projects, I control the feature set and stack… with the projects at work, I have less choice over the technology and the feature list.

    Any advice on utilizing Parkinson’s law on large projects with hard-to-estimate deadlines?

    ~ Jordan

    • Scott MacLellan

      The bigger the project the less predictable any estimate you make will be. As much as possible try to break the project down into smaller bite sized pieces. If you can work out what is essential for each piece of the overall project then I think you can apply Parkinson’s law to each piece. Even with the deliverables you listed you can order the pieces and start shipping earlier with a smaller feature set. This is where my dream running lean (http://theleanstartup.com/) and being an intrapreneur in a larger company kicks in. Even on large projects scope can be negotiable and for us releasing early/often helped shift the conversation. I have not read the book yet but hopefully this helps.

      • http://mattkremer.com Matt Kremer

        Hey makeitrein and Scott! I think Scott hit the nail on the head here. An important part of internal projects (or intra-prenuerism) is taking control of the product, making it your baby. It’s about laying out the ramifications to your managers about delaying deadlines, etc. “I can add that feature to the list, but it will take me an extra week to complete. If you’d like to see something sooner, perhaps I focus on X first?” I found when working on massive corporate projects that I work better if I split everything up into “pages” or tiny pieces. That way not only can I show my bosses that I’m completing work, but there is something usable along the way. You want to avoid the “Yeah, I can finish this project in 6 months” as much as possible by focusing on smaller pieces, “I can get that done in a week.”

  • http://www.initialsbyjake.com Chanette Sparks

    This is a really great post!

  • Bridge

    Out of curiosity, where did you purchase the landing page layout from? It looks really nice.

    • http://mattkremer.com Matt Kremer

      Off the top of my head I can’t remember, but I most likely found it on ThemeForest :)